How to prepare to do business with Israelis
Israel's diplomatic successes and presence on the world stage are underpinned by the reputation of Israelis as brash, rough, but innovative entrepreneurs. The nation is a world-class business powerhouse. The culture and behavior of the people are shaped by various factors businesspeople and others need to know and understand before engaging with Israelis if they want to ensure successful encounters and outcomes.
I learned from teaching business management and marketing to international university students and global business consulting how impactful social and cultural influences are on business strategies and entrepreneurship. That is why I am so enthusiastically recommending Israeli Business Culture: Building Effective Business Relationships with Israelis by
Osnat Lautman (Gefen Publishing, 2019, Second Edition).
Lautman's book is an easy read. It is foremost a teaching book. It is a must-read primer for businesspeople like Japan's largest insurance company president and CEO before he dives into Israel's business headwaters. He is the latest comer looking to identify and partner with Israel's hi-tech companies. His goal, he told the Jerusalem Post, is "to integrate [the Israelis] into their business operations." Careful here.
Japanese cultural and social norms of behavior seem antithetical to the business culture and social norms of Israelis. Lautman's book will prepare Mr. Nagano if it does not discourage him and his staff. The book will help overcome imponderable complications and risks at a personal level, if not financial. I recommend they not only read it, but schedule several pre-arrival and in-service workshops with Ms. Lautman to acculturate themselves before negotiating any deals.
They will learn how Israel's history and national identity shape her business mentality, which earned the sobriquet "the world's start-up nation." Lautman's work is not simply anecdotal, the product of years consulting at home and abroad. "She started her extensive research on the differences between Israeli and non-Israeli business cultures, including [thousands of hours of] video interviews with businesspeople from numerous origins."
Lautman's growth and advancement as a global business relations expert with a specialty in cultural relativism are handily woven together with her extensive academic knowledge in human behavior and organization. I get the picture of Osnat, the person, as highly disciplined with outsized intelligence, writing, and teaching skills. She lays the issues out before the reader, for example, describing Israeli traits bluntly — not to offend, as I have heard from others, but to make them relatable to non-Israelis engaging with them. Her work is laced with love.
Margaret Mead was the expert in the cross-cultural approach in the study of personality and society. Osnat takes a page from Mead by examining and explaining the culture conditioning affecting businesspeople. Mead did not work to influence those she studied, whereas Lautman is offering a guide to successful business interplay using this approach. For instance, her chapter on "Ten Things to Expect When Working with Israelis" addresses their motivations, expectations for employees and managers, negotiating style, task performance, and more. The book has ten pages of references for further reading; that is a trademark asset of every good teacher.
Israeli Business Culture is a helpful and trustworthy read not just for businesspeople. Every philanthropist and tourist ought to read it on the flight to Israel. Birthright and Masa students coming to tour and study will enhance their experiences before engaging with Israelis by first reading the book. And I highly recommend it to every Arab politician and negotiator.